During the holidays, we are symbols of joys of the season. Colored lights, the music of the season, get-togethers with co-workers, family, friends.
As a mental health professional, I can describe the overlying theme of the holidays with one word: expectations. Expectations around giving, receiving, participating, hosting. And the biggest expectation of all. The expectation of being happy.
When Things Aren’t Perfect
But the holiday season can be anything but happy. Family issues can pop up that cast a shadow over the festivities. Memories of holidays past, and people you shared them with who are no longer in your life, can be painful. All those events you are obligated to attend can be exhausting. On the other hand, not having any plans, or at least not having the plans you would hope for, can make the holidays a time to get through and get past.
Living with HIV can also add some blueness to your holidays. LIke those times when you might find yourself think about past holidays when you weren’t living with an HIV diagnosis, or maybe some concerns about how HIV will impact your life in the future. After all, it is the end of the year and the beginning of a new one.
So if you’re feeling the joy of the season, that’s great. And if you’re feeling the holiday blues, you’re sure not alone.
Not feeling the holidays? Here are some ideas for coping with the holiday blues:
Set limits. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by obligations, take a step back and consider where you want to place your energy and where you don’t. That might mean saying no to attending an event or get-together. Or buying food to bring instead of cooking. Maybe putting in an appearance and then retreating to the sanctuary of your home. Honor your own limits. No need to ice your holiday cake with guilt.
Do something that’s just for you. What’s special for you about the holiday season? Anything you especially enjoying doing this time of the year? While you’re being a good sport and participating in the activities that are important to family and friends, make some time to squeeze in something that has personal meaning. A favorite holiday movie, a walk or a drive to look at the decorations.
Spend time with the people who are important to you. If you’re being pulled in all kinds of directions over the holidays, you may find it difficult to arrange time to see everybody on your list. As a result, you may not quite get around to connecting with a high school classmate, a former co-worker, an elderly aunt who can’t come to family events. Don’t neglect to make time to experience the joy of being with people who have played an important role in your life.
Make your own wellness a priority. All that holiday eating, drinking, and sitting can have a negative impact on your emotional health. So back to setting limits. Before you attend an event, decide what you need to eat or drink, and what you need to avoid to feel at your best. And make sure you’re getting some active movement in every day. You’ll feel better physically and emotionally, and you’ll feel better about yourself.
Expectations. Sure, that’s a watchword for the holidays. Here’s another one: balance. Yes, this is a time to give. But keep your own needs and priorities at the front of your mind during the days ahead. Embrace what makes you joyful, and you’ll make everybody around you that much more joyful as well. Happiness is a boomerang.
Now, what about you? How are the holidays going for you?